A new apartment with a room full of happy orchids has me obsessing over flowers, of all things. The new camera and Sony G-Master 90mm lens is part of this descent into madness, I know. And then there are the tulips that my wife obsesses over, filling the house twice weekly with their silky touch and ever-changing shapes. Outside, just across the street in St. James Park, hundreds of tulips are about to spread their lips.
I’ve been trying to meditate, to better enjoy this semi-retirement. (Retirement? Never!)
I’m most successful in short stints, with my eyes closed. Meditating with my eyes open has been suggested to me but that’s what I do all the time anyway. And you can guess how that ends up … me contorting myself into whatever shape best works to capture those masters of shape and meditation: flowers.
Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome Joe McNally to Photofocus. While Joe’s a busy guy, he’ll be making some posts here from time to time. Please give a warm welcome to Joe and encourage him by leaving feedback on the article and sharing it with your friends.
It Started with a Shimmer…
Actually, a shimmer and an idea.
I don’t know why the folks at Nikon and the Photo Plus Expo administration listened to me when I came to them with Halloween ideas. For someone such as myself, raised up on comic books and the dark fantasies of Mordor, the notion of distressed trick or treaters, of small children poised on the verge of fantastical disaster and mayhem was completely normal. I was somewhat nonplussed then, when most people I tried to explain my ideas to would listen politely, tilt their head, look at me and say, “Sounds cool. You’re…
I always enjoy finding the time to do this. It gives me a sense of where I’ve been, where I’ve grown and where I still have much to do.
It’s been way too long since the last one. I’ve been way too busy since summer started. I see trips to the lake, the Keys, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ottawa. And in the midst of it I’ve taught and dedicated many hours to my portrait business. You can see what that’s all about here.
I’ve decided to post my previous “Fresh Baked” pages as posts, so you and I can go back up the river of the past. To date, I’ve been writing over existing pages with new photos and text.
No text this time. Enjoy the visuals for what they bring you. And by all means ask questions below.
I’m incredibly excited about the opening of Art Miami, where my work will be seen by 55,000 top international curators, artists, dealers & buyers. The VIP Opening Night is slated to begin as I write this. My work is being presented in the Context Pavilion by Luky Cancio of Cancio Contemporary. The Context Pavillion is described, on Art Miami’s website, as an outgrowth of Art Miami that services “a select group of international art dealers by providing a platform, infrastructure and proven marketplace that engages and attracts qualified collectors to acquire the works of their artists who have achieved certain levels of critical acclaim and pricing for their works.” !!!
Star Power has an interesting history. When I was working at CBC, CTV was whipping us in the ratings. But that wasn’t enough. Ivan Fecan, formerly our boss, had “Canadian Idol” tapings held across Front Street, in the John Bassett Theatre. Not only were we losing to “that other network”, but we had to listen to the screaming of their rabid fans as we laboured into the dinner hour. It was summer, and I recall exiting the building on John Street, where the bad guys had also plastered gigantic ads for their other programming. It was ludicrous: John St. is a tiny street that gets little traffic, except when Blue Jays fans shuffle along to the (formerly known as) Skydome. I took Star Power that night. That canvas, stretched across the top of a hideous power station, went on to do triple duty: It raked in good money from advertisers in a formerly dead space, it allowed CTV to taunt us even more, and tonight it makes its debut at Context Art Miami. My television wars are over now. Selling these will bury them.
Miss Connect, above, began life as Afro-Jo. Jo is my daughter’s name, and one of my favourite pieces of music is John Coltrane’s Afro Blue (Live at Birdland). It’s a portrait of my daughter checking out a photo in the Galleria of Brookside Place on Bay Street. When she stopped behind this portrait of a young African-American, I couldn’t resist. I then posed her behind several other photos, like this one of Putin. I call it JoJo Putinesca. Joanna’s patience soon ran out, but I got four shots out of her that day.
Luky has two more pieces, though I don’t know which will hang when (or if). “Sorry“, below, was taken in Calpe, Spain. The “context” is a lot more urban that it looks: I was standing in the parking lot of a grocery store when I took it.
If you find yourself at Art Miami over the next few days, here’s a pass on me
It was 103F when we arrived, so we decided to jump into the river – well, onto a boat – for the architectural tour. It was just a shade cooler there, especially after I found a perch to shoot in the shadow of the bridge. Make sure you get the tour offered by the architectural society. It was guided by a wonderfully well-informed volunteer whose calm manner and gentle humour stood in marked contrast to the screeching wannabe comics we encountered later on the double deckers. Some of the photos here are from the boat, some from the bus, but most were taken from my favourite perch: standing still.
The skyline is as magnificent as it is famous, and its functional purity, derived from the school of Mies van der Rohe, has really leaked into Chicago’s mindset: things work for people here. That’s the simple rule. But time passes, and the simple skyscrapers of yesteryear are now taking a back seat to neo-classical, neo-deco and new-neo, many of which play dramatically off the black boxes of the Chicago school. Not everyone is happy, but I am.
We spent most of the rest of the day at the Art Institute, a museum whose lighting, openness, coolness!, photo policies, layout and quality of the collection make it my favourite – ever. Did I mention how cool it was?
Flooded with light, the modern wing boasts a brilliant collection of American, Impressionist and Contemporary Art. I have to admit that it’s difficult to get around in, but its simple grandeur more than makes up for it – and makes bumping into things more fun. That’s not how a Chicagoan would see it though. Shusheela Bhat, writing in Chicago Art Magazine says of the airy, Church-like feel: “You get over that fairly quickly though, as you wonder where to go”. That’s that functional mindset at work again.
One of the things we bumped into was this massive Paris street scene by Gustave Caillebotte – I had never even heard his name, though he was the primary financial sponsor and a major exhibitor at the first impressionist exhibition. He became wealthy enough to retire at 34. (Not from art). You can find a lovely video of the first exhibition here.
The highlight of the day, however, was the Lichtenstein exhibit, an artist who I only sort of liked in the past. But the breadth of his work is truly fantastic. I miss the fun he brought now, his amusing play on the comic strip and his pop art take on pointillism.. His ascent into the world of high art was a breath of fresh air in the rarified art world of his day. In retrospect that now seems more important than ever as the art world seems once more to be sinking back into academic irrelevance.
My favourite piece was Perforated Seascape #1 (Blue). Using a top layer of punched metal in his signature dot form, he created this fantastically kinetic sculptural piece for the viewer.
Just looking at it as a still object is dizzying enough. Have a seat before you look at the iPhone video below. Apologies in advance for the vertigo and the camera work!
As we staggered our way out of the Art Institute (failing to find the Richters were were after) we found another Chicago masterpiece: Millennium Park, a lesson in urban planning that topped off our first day in Chicago.
Read more about our day there in my previous post, My Kind of Town. After a wonderful anniversary dinner, we headed off to dreamland. Night fell over the river, with four more wonderful days yet to come.